Saturday, May 31, 2014

Indie Review: Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)


                They said Pulp Fiction was a game-changer for independent cinema, mainly because of how director Tarantino was able to allow independent filmmaking to cross over to the mainstream. But back in 1989, there was one small film that came out which was said to be a game-changer for indie cinema in general. That film was called sex, lies, and videotape by Steven Soderbergh.

             sex, lies, and videotape follows a sexually repressed woman named Anne (Andie McDowell) whose husband John (Peter Gallagher) is having an affair with her sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). John's old friend Graham (James Spader) then enters the picture and he has a rather unnatural interest in filming women while they discuss their sexual experiences.

             What I Liked About It:
          First off, I really liked the film's premise. I liked the whole idea of a man getting pleasure in listening to women discuss their sexual experiences while avoiding emotional attachment. Normally people actually have sex to avoid attachment but the idea of "getting off" by watching the point of view of other people explaining how they "get off" is very interesting and the way Soderbergh handles that idea is very believable. Plus, the different characters that he creates are very interesting. Anne and Cynthia are like the yin to each other's yang as Anne is more restrained and stiff, while Cynthia is much more sultry. Graham is the stranger that is rather enigmatic and makes the women in the film weary yet drawn to him, while John is the lecherous husband caught in the middle. The ways the actors portray each character are also something to behold as they all bring in their A-game. They also bring in their dramatic A-game in a rather subtle way which is nice because I usually prefer performances that are subtle and unassuming.

          I also liked the way Soderbergh directed this film. I'm not quite sure to explain his process, but I'll do my best. He doesn't use any special color schemes or shoot it with a grainy look to make it look too realistic. But I noticed one possible motif when watching the film. There are a few scenes where Graham offers Cynthia and Anne iced tea when they each visit his place. Then there is one scene towards the end where Graham offers Anne water. The iced tea is like a representation of "tastiness" or the somewhat sensual relationships he forms with these women and the water symbolizes how pure Graham might become towards the end. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but that's how I saw it.

         What I Didn't Like About It:

        Overall, sex, lies, and videotape is a sultry and humanistic drama that is very much the whole package: It has brilliant writing, directing, and acting. This is one I would highly recommend and despite the fact it has the word sex in the title, (*possible spoiler alert*) it doesn't have sex throughout so no need to worry about it being too explicit. Plus, it has become an essential piece of independent filmmaking over the years.

Rating: A+

Indie Review: Mulholland Dr. (2001)

                   A Rather Hypnotic Look At A Town Built On Dreams Is A Ride Down 'Mulholland Dr.'

                          As I've mentioned in my review of Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood usually doesn't make movies that show its rather darker sides. But that is what the indie-verse is for as they tend to go places Hollywood would never go. After bringing us to the dark underworld of suburbia in Blue Velvet, director David Lynch brilliantly brings us to the darkness of Hollywood in another masterpiece known as Mulholland Dr.

                     Mulholland Dr. is about an aspiring actress named Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) who moves into her relative's apartment in Hollywood, only to find an amnesiac woman (Laura Elena Harring) who names herself Rita after actress Rita Hayworth. As the film progresses, both Betty and Rita try to uncover Rita's memory while they slowly begin to come to grips with reality in a town full of broken and aspiring dreams.

                     What I Liked About It:
                    I'll start off with the direction by David Lynch. The way he directs this film is nothing short of genius. He shoots the first half in the style of an older 50's film in color and that not only gives the film a nostalgic vibe, but fits the first half's dream-like atmosphere. But, by the time the second half rolls around, it looks much more realistic. The whole film is about "dream vs. reality" and the way Lynch shoots both halves of the film really plays into that conflict. He even uses special motifs to get the audience to analyze what they represent. I'll only point out a few. One involves a scene where an actress doing an audition is lip-synching to a song called "I've Told Every Little Star" by Linda Scott. That is one scene that shows how Hollywood is built on illusion. As many of us know, actors always fake and sometimes singers fake their voice, so what we usually see or hear from artists in Tinseltown is not always real and that is one of a few scenes that showcases that idea. There is another scene in the beginning that involves two men walking towards the rear of a diner, only for a decrepit homeless person to suddenly appear. The way I see it, the homeless person is like a shadow for those that don't want to fail and those in the film that do see this person find themselves in fear of it. The whole film is meant to make you think and the different motifs Lynch uses are open to interpretation.

                    Another thing that to me makes the film is Naomi Watts' transcendent performance. She actually plays two different characters and makes you believe that the characters are played by two different actresses, even though she doesn't go through some kind of physical transformation. That is wonderful acting. Not to mention, the way she transitions from one character to the next, from the more upbeat and optimistic Betty Elms to the more pessimistic fallen dreamer Diane Selwyn, is nothing short of brilliance. Naomi Watts gives one of the greatest performances EVER put on screen. Her co-star Laura Elena Harring is just as astounding. She also gives a dual performance as both "Rita", the lost amnesiac, and the rather sleazy social-climbing actress Camilla Rhodes. Like Watts, the way Harring suddenly switches from Rita to Camilla is nothing short of brilliance. Even if the movie was awful, Watts and Harring's performances would still be the best thing about it.

                   What I Didn't Like About It:

                 Overall, Mulholland Dr. is a hypnotic yet haunting noir thriller that will keep you guessing throughout the film. It may require more than one viewing, as it is one you have to uncover as you watch it, but I would still highly recommend it. I would especially recommend it to those that love to analyze and study film. If you like to do that, then look no further than this film.

Grade: A+

Friday, May 30, 2014

Indie Review: Dancer in the Dark (2000)

                              A Musical That May Not Make You Feel Like 'Dancing'

                   What kind of director would take a musical film which would normally make you feel like dancing and make the feeling of watching it like a knife slowly stabbing you in the ribs? Lars Von Trier, one of our most visionary directors alive today, would and he does it in such a beautiful yet haunting way.

                   Dancer in the Dark is about a Czech immigrant named Selma Jezkova (Bjork) who is slowly going blind and is saving money for a surgery for her son in order for him to not suffer the same fate. Selma works at a factory and when things begin to turn stressful or mundane, she drifts off to her imagination and everything turns into a musical.  When Selma gets into a conflict with her landlord Bill (David Morse), then Selma sees her life turn into a downward spiral and she realizes how reality is much harsher than the Hollywood musical she imagined life in America to be like.

                  What I Liked About It:
                The thing that I loved the most about this film can be summed up in one word: Bjork. Good. Freaking. GOD. Bjork just blew my mind with her phenomenal and multi-layered performance. She brings magic that will make you smile during the musical scenes yet has a haunting vulnerability that will just break your heart. In the final scene, she takes her musical magic and vulnerability and molds them together as she brings teardrops from your eyes. There are even scenes where she smiles to hide her pain.  One of the best performances I've ever seen in my entire life.

                Now onto the direction from Lars Von Trier. What can I say? The man is a visionary artist. He takes different genres and with his films, makes them his own. Here, he takes the musical genre and breathes new life into it. During the musical scenes, he never even ditches the handheld camera that is used throughout the filming of this movie. In fact, during those scenes, he uses much brighter lighting in order to incorporate the fantasy and dream elements while still retaining the film's realism.

               Another thing I want to point out is how some of the songs have a more underlying tragedy. One of them called "I've Seen It All" has Selma singing about how despite the fact she is going blind, there is nothing left for her to see. There is even a scene where Selma is singing "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music, which is normally a happy song, and when she sings it, it still gets pretty sad as it isn't in a dream sequence. Now that I think about it, that scene shows how Selma isn't able to "sing" her way out of the situation she is in and how she has tragically become more grounded in reality.

             What I Didn't Like About It:

            Overall, Dancer in the Dark is a haunting and heartbreaking musical drama that features a breathtaking performance from Bjork. Despite how heart-wrenching it is, I would still recommend it to those who love musicals as well. If you don't like musicals, then you would probably still like this movie as there isn't singing and dancing throughout. Even though it is a very artistic film, I wouldn't say it is one of those you have to analyze when you are watching it, so even though it is a hard watch, it is still technically an easy watch.

Grade: A+

Monday, May 26, 2014

Oscars 2015 Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Hello, Bloggers, here is the next post as part of my early Oscar coverage for next year. I already discussed my predictions for Best Actress and Actor. Now, I will discuss my predictions for the nominees for Best Supporting Actress.

Viola Davis, Get On Up: This would be Davis' 3rd Oscar nomination, which could make her the African-American actress with the most nominations. Now, Get On Up is yet to come out, but if it is successful then Davis could have a shot at getting nominated in this category as it is the most kind to character actresses like Frances McDormand, Sally Hawkins, and Catherine Keener. Since this would be Davis' 3rd nomination, a win could be possible not just because of that, but because she was widely expected to win Best Actress for The Help, only to be somewhat upset by Meryl Streep and a win here could easily make up for that.

Anna Kendrick, Into The Woods: The last two musicals director Rob Marshall brought to the big screen, Nine and Chicago, made their way to the Oscars and Marshall was able to land nominations for his actors or mostly his actresses. On paper, Into The Woods looks to have Oscar written all over it because it's a musical and has an all-star cast: Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, and Anna Kendrick. I could see Kendrick scoring a nomination because she already has been nominated in this category for Up In The Air, so the Academy is already pretty fond of her and as I said, Rob Marshall is like a good luck charm for his actresses.

Judy Greer, Men, Women, & Children: The film doesn't have a release date yet, but this could be a "late bloomer" in the Oscar race. Plus, the film has Jason Reitman, who also did Juno and Up In The Air, behind it. Even though the film has an all-star cast that includes Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Emma Thompson, and J.K. Simmons, I could definitely see Judy Greer scoring a nomination. As I've said about Viola Davis, the Supporting Actress category is most kind to steadily-working character actresses. Greer is certainly one of them and has been around Hollywood for quite some time on various films, like the Best Picture nominated The Descendants and television shows like Arrested Development and Two and a Half Men. I may not have seen the film yet, but if she were nominated, I would certainly be pleased as I am quite a fan of hers and a nomination would see all her hard work and dedication in Tinseltown pay off.

Meryl Streep, Into The Woods: Streep made another film and could land another nomination this time around. In fact, she has about 3 supporting performances set for this year: Into The Woods, The Homesman, and Suffragette, so watch out. I kind of hope she doesn't get nominated even though I really like her, but I'll just predict she does just to be safe. Plus, I'll admit, you can never go wrong nominating her.

Kristin Scott Thomas, Suite Francaise: Suite Francaise may seem to have Michelle Williams be front and center, but there are plenty of other actresses in the mix, like Wolf of Wall Street's Margot Robbie, Rush's Alexandra Maria Lara, and French-British character actress Kristin Scott Thomas who some of you may know from The English Patient, which she received a Best Actress nomination for.  There is apparent talk of her retiring, so this could persuade the Academy to recognize her performance in this now before it's too late.

Now onto the "dark horse" contenders:

Annette Bening (The Search): She already has 4 nominations, which means she is an Oscar favorite, and the film is directed by Michel Hazanavicius who did The Artist. So, we'll see.

Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars): I already put her in the Best Actress category, but just in case, I'll also predict her as a dark horse for Best Supporting Actress. She did just win the Cannes Award for Best Actress and sometimes that is an indicator for the Oscar race.

Vanessa Redgrave (Foxcatcher): The Oscars love veterans and Redgrave is quite the veteran actress. Plus, the film already has awards traction.

Octavia Spencer (Get On Up): Both her and Viola Davis are working with the same director that landed them Oscar nominations. Who is to say that wouldn't happen again?

Emma Stone (Birdman): She has two potential Oscar contenders: Birdman and Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight. Plus, while the Supporting Actress category is usually served for character actresses, they like to recognize the usual starlet.

Naomi Watts (Birdman): She already has 2 nominations so the Academy is pretty fond of her. Plus, she is once again collaborating with Oscar favorite Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu.

So, those are my predictions thus far for who could be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Next, I will discuss my predictions for Best Supporting Actor. Until then, thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Oscars 2015 Predictions: Best Actor

Hello, Bloggers, it's been a while since I did Oscar coverage for next year as I have only done my predictions for the nominations for Best Actress. Today, I will make my predictions for Best Actor. Here we go:

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher: Foxcatcher is said to be an Oscar hopeful this awards season and seems to be on the right track as it just won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. Carell may not have won Best Actor, but he could easily benefit from how the Academy likes to reward movie stars or comedians for re-inventing themselves, like they did with this year's Best Actor winner, since Carell is going serious playing a real-life schizophrenic and altered his appearance in the process. So, a nomination seems more than likely despite the film getting cold feet during last year's awards season.

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game: Benedict Cumberbatch is quite a commodity in Tinseltown these days, with Star Trek Into Darkness and the Hobbit sequels under his belt, as well as the recent Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave, and his loyal fan base thanks to his work on Sherlock. Cumberbatch's upcoming film The Imitation Game seems primed to be an Oscar contender because it is about a real-life cryptographer who was prosecuted during WWII because of his homosexuality. Seems a bit "on the nose", but it surely does have Oscar written all over it and a nomination for Cumberbatch would certainly help further his rising star.

Michael Keaton, Birdman: Michael Keaton has been on Hollywood's radar since the 80's, with films like Batman, Mr. Mom, and Beetlejuice. Now, he has been slightly off the radar lately and seems to have been hiding in the "Bat Cave" so to speak. But that could change with the upcoming Oscar hopeful Birdman, which is about a Broadway actor trying to recapture his former glory. A nomination could make it seem like life does imitate art and put him back on the radar.

Jack O'Connell, Unbroken: While Hollywood likes to recognize older veterans that have been in Tinseltown forever, they also like to push forward the next generation. The upcoming biopic Unbroken seems poised to be an Oscar contender and could be a breakthrough role for relative newcomer Jack O'Connell. Plus, Hollywood darling Angelina Jolie is behind the camera and it is scripted by Oscar darlings Joel and Ethan Coen and if the film is a success, then those two facts could be very telling.

Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner: Timothy Spall, aka Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter, is one of those steadily working character actors that hardly get any awards recognition for their tremendous work. Since Spall just won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival, that could further his chance at getting nominated. Not only that, but the fact that Mr. Turner is done by Oscar favorite Mike Leigh and usually the Academy likes to nominate his actors. Plus, other supporting character actors that get nominated sometimes get nominated in the Best Actor category, like David Strathairn and Richard Jenkins, and see their hard work and dedication in Hollywood pay off.

Now onto a few dark horses that the Academy might not say "neigh" to:

Ben Affleck (Gone Girl): He already has two Oscars, but has never been nominated for his acting before, so this could be new for him.

Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up): Depending on its early summer release date and whether the film is a success or not, Boseman could be an Oscar hopeful with his portrayal of James Brown.

Robert Downey, Jr. (The Judge): RDJ has had quite a run thanks to the commercially successful Iron Man and Avengers films, but will they nominate him for The Judge as a reminder to protect his artistry?

Brad Pitt (Fury): He may have just won Best Picture, but he could easily get an immediate afterglow nomination if Fury, another Oscar contender coming out this year about WWII, is successful.

Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar): Could the McConaissance continue?

Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice): It's a Paul Thomas Anderson film and the Academy is pretty fond of him, but it sort of depends on whether Phoenix would be in good graces with the Academy after his "Oscars are bulls**t" comment a few years ago.

So, those are my predictions for who could potentially land a spot in the Final Five and who could take their places. Next, I will do my predictions for Best Supporting Actress. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Topic Of The Day: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Hello, Bloggers, for today's Topic Of The Day, I will discuss some potential ideas for the upcoming sequel to X-Men: Days Of Future Past: X-Men: Apocalypse. It doesn't come out until 2016, but I figured just for fun, I'd possibly throw in some possible ideas for new mutants and some casting decisions. Here we go:

So far, it has been announced that Channing Tatum will play Gambit. It has also been announced that there will be younger versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm. I'll start off with my casting choice for Storm. It is hands down Lupita Nyong'o. Even though Nyong'o is in her 30's and they might look for someone in her 20's, I would still say look no further than Lupita Nyong'o. It would be a great way to capitalize on her Oscar win for 12 Years A Slave, would reunite her with her 12 Years co-star Michael Fassbender, and she could easily bring the right grace and dignity to the character. Next, I'll go into Jean Grey. Now, I actually have three possible choices for Jean Grey. One is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who some of you may know as Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Another is her Scott Pilgrim co-star Brie Larson, who played "Envy" Adams and since she is about 23, Larson would be an amazing contemporary with Jennifer Lawrence, who is the youngest female in the prequel franchise thus far. My third pick is Shailene Woodley, who would be given another shot at a comic book movie after getting cut from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, if she were to tackle the role in case Sony doesn't want to come calling again or if she isn't in a tangle with filming the Divergent series. Honestly, after she was cut from Spider-Man, I would love to see her tackle a comic book role she could really sink her teeth into. Now onto my casting pick for Cyclops. Now, Cyclops was honestly a tough one to pick just because I couldn't think of anybody, but I went with Garrett Hedlund. He has already tackled sci-fi with Tron: Legacy and after watching that film, I think he is a wonderful actor. He is also 29, so he isn't too old yet he isn't too young. So, those are my cast picks for the younger Scott, Jean, and Storm. I even heard that Nightcrawler will be thrown back into the mix. So, my cast pick for that character would be Sam Claflin, aka Finnick Odair from The Hunger Games. Nightcrawler would probably be a supporting character, but as evidenced by the blockbusters Claflin has appeared in where he was a supporting player, he still always manages to leave an impression and Nightcrawler would be just another fun character for Claflin to add to his list.

Now onto some other new mutants they could throw in. One of them is actually one that X-Men don't seem to take too seriously and that is Dazzler, who has the ability to convert different forms of sound into light. I feel that if this character was handled successfully, she could be translated to the silver screen well. I could see Brie Larson playing her as well as Dazzler is also a singer and Larson has an amazing singing voice. Now that I think about it, if Larson were to star in this, she would be reunited with her 21 Jump Street co-star Channing Tatum. Anyhow, another mutant that we haven't seen yet that could be thrown into the mix is Polaris, who is like Magneto but without a Y chromosome. Since Polaris' half-brother Quicksilver is already in the mix, it would be interesting to see a dynamic between those two and Magneto, who is Polaris' father. Plus, in the comics, Polaris was one of the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, and Apocalypse will be the main villain. There is also Angel, who was one of the original five X-Men. Angel plays an integral part of the Apocalypse story line and it would seem fitting to throw him into the mix. Finally, there is Psylocke, who is a very powerful psychic that has the ability to create a "psi-knife" on her right hand. Since Emma Frost might not be in the mix and Jean Grey is not fully developed in terms of her powers, it would seem fitting to throw a more powerful psychic that has actually fought Apocalypse before.

So, those are my ideas for who could play the mutants that have been announced for X-Men: Apocalypse and what new mutants could be thrown into the mix. If you feel differently or agree with my choices, then please feel free to write in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

                       This Film Could Give Us Hope For A Better 'Future' In Blockbuster Movies

                Recently, I have seen some blockbuster films that seemingly manage to weave in-your-face action with rather meaningful storytelling. For example, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a brilliant superhero film that works as a political thriller and Godzilla demonstrates humanity succumbing to its own arrogance after toying with science. X-Men: Days of Future Past manages to continue this trend by successfully staying true to the themes of its source material.

             X-Men: Days of Future Past follows the titular X-Men who are in a future that has become a dystopian war zone after an event that took place in the past. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is then sent back in time to try to convince a younger Professor X (James McAvoy) and younger Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to join forces to change this one crucial event from the past in order to alter the future.

             What I Liked About It:
            As I said, I loved how the film manages to be true to the themes from the source material. The X-Men comics were founded during the Civil Rights Movement and deal with racism without actually using race. Not only that, but the characters of Professor X and Magneto are based off of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, respectively, as they are fighting for the same conflict but with different points of view. Professor X is all about peace, but Magneto wants order and dominance over humanity for his kind to be accepted. One thing that they added was making Mystique somewhere in between as in this film, she isn't completely good yet she isn't fully on board with Magneto. Even though the film delves into the themes of racial and sexual intolerance, they even manage to showcase the theme of hope for a better day. It does this through the character of Professor X, who slowly struggles to hope again after he lost his best friend and a woman who was like his little sister growing up.

           Another thing I also liked was the performances from the cast. Hugh Jackman IS Wolverine and once again shines as the character. I'll admit that even though the mantle has to, and I mean HAS to be passed someday, it'll be hard to top Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine just because he has lived and breathed the character for a solid 14 years. Jennifer Lawrence is equally as good as Mystique as she plays the character that has become a lone ranger and agent of vengeance. Michael Fassbender perfectly embodies the character of Magneto, who is an anti-hero that is despicable yet has some respectable qualities. James McAvoy brilliantly plays Professor X and this time around, shows a rather darker and painful side to the character. Peter Dinklage plays the film's villain, the despicable Bolivar Trask who invents the mutant-hunting Sentinels and really does a good job at making you hate the character. Another actor who stole the show is Evan Peters, who plays a mutant named Quicksilver who has the ability to run super fast. Peters doesn't have a whole lot of screen time, but boy does he make the most of it and I can't wait for him to come back in the sequel. I also really liked the action sequences and how some of the heroes in the past sequences don't wear fancy uniforms. I liked that part a lot because it shows that it isn't the colorful uniforms that make the heroes. It is their powers and their intellect.

            What I Didn't Like About It:

           Overall, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a brilliant tour-de-force in blockbuster filmmaking that manages to stay faithful to the source material. Whether you are a fan of the comics or not, or are even a fan of comics to begin with or not, you might still get an enjoyment out of it. Not only that, but because the film deals with discrimination, you might find yourself connected to the characters if you feel discriminated whether you are a minority or a homosexual or just plain different. Even in the page, you might still find yourself connected to the brilliant comics that have lived on over the years. In my opinion, even though the X-Men are about mutated beings, they are the still the most human out of all the other comic books.

Grade: A+


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Trailer Talk #16: Foxcatcher, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, The Fault in Our Stars, The Homesman, As Above So Below, Interstellar

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Trailer Talk, where I take trailers of upcoming films that I watch on the Internet or at the movies and discuss whether or not I will see them in theaters. Let's take a look at a fair few I watched online. Here we go:

Foxcatcher: First up is the trailer for the upcoming Oscar contender Foxcatcher starring Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum. Now, this film initially was set to be released last year but ended up getting cold feet before the crowded awards season. It is making its premiere at Cannes now and there is already plenty of awards buzz surrounding Steve Carell for his dramatic turn as paranoid schizophrenic wrestling coach John Du Pont. I think it looks very promising and the trailer gave me the chills a bit. I'll probably see this in theaters and hopefully it doesn't end up like an ill-received film that was just shown at Cannes that also got Oscar cold feet last year: Grace of Monaco starring Nicole Kidman.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Now onto another film Steve Carell has set for release this year, the Disney comedy Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, also starring Jennifer Garner. I think this one is based on a children's novel, about a kid who always has a bad day and one day, he and his family have practically the worst day of their life. This film definitely seems to have a good message about getting through the bad days to get to the good, but I don't really know if I would rush out and see it in theaters. If it is on Starz or whatever, I would maybe give it a watch. But it doesn't look like something I would see in theaters.

The Fault In Our Stars: Next is the film adaptation of the YA book The Fault In Our Stars, starring Divergent's Shailene Woodley. Now, I had originally planned to read the book before the film comes out, but I actually want to get through the Divergent series first. Anyways, the film itself has a lot of promise and it looks like Hollywood is luckily really taking notice of Shailene Woodley since her breakthrough role in The Descendants. Whether I actually see this in theaters remains to be seen, but I will definitely check it out somehow.

The Homesman: Next is another film that was just shown at Cannes, The Homesman starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank. This is a smaller western film that is about Jones and Swank who travel from Nebraska to Iowa to transport three insane women. Jones also directed this and in the trailer, there were some beautiful shots that were almost like looking at a painting, so I'm already liking the way he directed it. Would I see it in theaters, though? Maybe. Though it seems like a potential Oscar contender on paper because of its cast that also includes John Lithgow, Hailee Steinfeld, and Meryl Streep who we only see for a milli-second in the trailer, and the fact it is a period piece. But, we'll see.

As Above, So Below: Next is a trailer for an actual horror film called As Above, So Below. This looks like it is another one of those "found footage" movies that have become a trend because of the ungodly horrendous Paranormal Activity. (I still hate that movie). Anyways, it deals with a group of explorers who travel the catacombs of Paris and you can pretty much figure out the rest for yourself. They get trapped and a bunch of supernatural stuff happens. I will more than likely just skip this and find solstice in much older horror films.

Interstellar: Finally is one of my most anticipated movies of the year: Christopher Nolan's Interstellar. I might have already done the teaser trailer when it came out, but I always make exceptions when there is a film coming out that is highly, and I mean HIGHLY, on my radar. Interstellar is definitely high on my radar and now that we have a full-length trailer, I still want to know more, which means I am seeing this in theaters, no ifs, ands, or buts.

So, that was episode #16 of Trailer Talk and I hope you enjoyed it. As always, my next episode will come when I watch some more new trailers online or at the movies. Until then, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Topic Of The Day: Why Child Stars Go Bad

Hello, Bloggers, I figured that for today's Topic Of The Day, I would offer my own personal theory on a certain question: Why or how do child stars go bad? This is something that I thought of after I had a conversation with my family on Easter. Let's take a look at this question that is always asked.

So, I, along with my uncle who brought this up, feel that child stars who start off at such a young age become more messed up as they get older is because of how they get run by such excessive PR. Take for example, Justin Bieber. He got into the business when he was about 15 and since he blew up to global stardom, he has always been touring and doing concert after concert and probably attending talk show after talk show. With all that came a whole lot of media attention, eventually resulting in his feuds with his paparazzi, his troubles with the law, and overwhelming attention from his legions of fans known as "Beliebers". I'm sure that kind of attention is probably why many stars have their entourage on standby, which includes publicists, bodyguards, etc. That brings me to my next point. Since plenty of stars travel with their entourage wherever they go to satisfy their every need and make sure they're taken care of before a big show and such, some of the younger stars probably see their entourage more than they see their parents. Without parental guidance to keep them grounded, they find themselves free to do whatever and that doesn't always end up too well. I remember watching a recent interview on Ellen with Lindsay Lohan where Lohan said that when she was more famous, her mother kept advising her to move back home to New York and not in LA. When she was the hottest ticket in town, that was when the excessive paparazzi attention came into play, the lack of parents in sight, and access to whatever she wanted, which included drugs and alcohol, that led to her downfall. I'm not trying to add insult to injury, I am just stating why I think she went down the path of other child stars that came before her.

There are even child stars that never really had a childhood to begin with, like Michael Jackson. Jackson was thrust into show business since about the age of 10 and his life has always been about show business ever since. I am sure that is why he had his little "slumber parties" with younger boys. Not that I am condoning his behavior, but I think he was trying to recapture the feeling of being a kid again since he never really got to experience what it was like being a kid.

So, that is my theory as to why some child stars go down the wrong path as they grow older. If you feel differently and would like to add your own personal theory, or if you agree, then please feel free to write in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Godzilla

                                                    'Godzilla' Is Truly The Dinosaur's Roar

                         Very rarely do we ever have blockbuster films that are filmed with artistic merit. Some of the few that I can think of are Nolan's Batman films. So, in my mind, Godzilla not only serves as a delicious piece of cinematic junk food, but serves like healthy apples as well as it takes two concepts that are like apples and oranges and successfully molds them together.

                         Godzilla follows a man named Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who leaves his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and son to pick up his father Joe (Bryan Cranston) in Japan who tries to uncover the truth behind a radiation incident that occurred years ago. Along the way, both Ford and Joe, along with the world, find themselves up against a man-made creature known as Godzilla who tries to fight off radiation-induced creatures known as MUTO. 

                         What I Liked About It:
                        One thing that I liked was just how the film just what happens when man messes around with nature. That kind of theme may have been dealt with before in films like Splice, Planet of the Apes, and Jurassic Park, but it is dealt with differently here as it showcases the dangers of radiation. Not only that, but since the MUTO are the result of man tempering with nature, but Godzilla fighting off these creatures almost feels like God correcting nature's mistakes since Godzilla is almost a god-like creature. Speaking of which, I really liked the way Godzilla looked and the different MUTO creatures as well. 

                         The film even seems like it focuses more on the beasts themselves than the human characters. To me, that makes sense because it is obviously difficult to relate to a giant lizard. But shearing its focus on these creatures fighting each other makes things interesting and really plays upon the whole "God vs. nature" conflict present. Honestly, when I saw the first trailer of this film, I was so intrigued because they didn't really give us an idea of what the film was about which made we want to see more and now that I saw the film, I was surprised by how the story went and I really loved it. 

                           What I Didn't Like About It:
                          I'll be honest here. One minor complaint I have is that even though the film has human characters for the audience to try and relate to, the characters aren't fully realized. But as I said, the focus isn't really on them, it is more on the creatures themselves, which gives the film almost a realistic documentary feel as we are mainly watching this god-like creature trying to right the wrongs created by nature. I'm just curious as to what will happen with Godzilla in the sequel because they already announced that there will be one.

                          Overall, Godzilla is a rather artistic popcorn flick with a true old school monster movie feel. This one I would highly recommend you see in theaters and I would even say see it in 3-D. It would be worth the extra 3.50 or 4.00 for the glasses. Whether you like action flick or monster movies or not at all, I would still say give this a watch. You might be in for quite a 'roaring' surprise.

Grade: A-

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Indie Review: The Wrestler

                             An Emotionally Raw Drama That Really 'Wrestles' With Your Heartstrings

                    As I always say, art comes in many forms and sometimes is used to entertain us. But here we have a film that gives us a look at an artist that suffers for his art and does it in such a brilliant yet disturbing way.

                  The Wrestler follows an aging wrestler named Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) who finds himself in a difficult point in his life as he struggles to make ends meet and finds his health failing. His only comfort is that of an aging stripper named "Cassidy" (Marisa Tomei) who he slowly develops romantic feelings for. Along the way, Randy tries to reconcile with his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) who is bitter about him leaving her.

                 What I Liked About It:
                First off, I'll discuss the brilliance that is Mickey Rourke's performance. He really commands the screen and with a rather quiet intensity. Rourke does play the character's softer side very well yet he isn't afraid to show us his rather unsympathetic side. Marisa Tomei is also excellent as Cassidy and similarly to Rourke, gives a rather restrained performance as she plays a character who struggles to open her heart to a man who she views as a customer. Both of them got Oscar nominations for their performances and they were well-deserved. Evan Rachel Wood has a shorter amount of screen time than Rourke and Tomei, but she really makes the most of it as she conveys her character's anguish and torment and makes you realize why her character is so bitter towards her father.

               Another thing I really liked was the direction from Darren Aronofsky. I liked how he shoots it very realistically and uses long takes a lot. The way he shoots it is almost similar to the way he shot Black Swan, but that makes a lot of sense since this film is a companion piece to Black Swan and vice versa. Both this film and Black Swan were originally going to be molded together into one film, but in my opinion, it wouldn't have worked since this film has a bit more of a realistic dramatic feel while Swan has more horror elements. But both films do give quite an insight into artists who suffer for their art.

                One thing I actually noticed was how both Randy and Cassidy wear clothes and have apparel related to 80's bands and talk about how much they love 80's music. I feel that plays into a theme of these two characters being stuck in the past. Both are way past their prime as Randy is trying to relive his glory days while Cassidy continues with her profession despite her age and the fact hardly anyone sees her nowadays. So they are both stuck in the past completely. I'll admit, I did like the 80's soundtrack for the most part and it was interesting how it was weaved in to such an artistic film.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:

                Overall, The Wrestler is a raw and realistic drama that will have you caught in a "wrestling ring" of emotions up until the final scene. Its acting is honest and brilliant, its direction is flawless, and the whole film itself is flawless. I'll just say this right off the bat, the film is very dark so I don't know if it'll be for everybody, but if you like to study film or are a fan of Aronofsky and his work, I would put this high on your watch list.

Grade: A+

Friday, May 16, 2014

Review: Doubt

                                        A Tour-De-Force In Ensemble Acting, No 'Doubt'

                           Some who look at the plot of Doubt might think it is another story about sex abuse in the Catholic church. But surprisingly, it is a lot more than that. Doubt is a lot more of a morality tale about our doubts as human beings that just uses alleged sex abuse as the basis of the plot and is a brilliant morality tale at that.
                       Doubt is set in the 60's in a Bronx Catholic school where a priest named Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is accused of having inappropriate relations with a black student by the school principal Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) after a younger nun named Sister James (Amy Adams) observes the close relationship between Flynn and the student.

                        What I Liked About It:
                      First off, I liked how the film is not just an ensemble piece, but it also works as a character study and a morality tale. The film mostly serves as a character study for Sister Aloysius and how she targets this beloved priest only by suspicion and instinct. Also, it works as a morality tale because it mostly plays on the themes of doubt and religion. It asks us whether or not the pursuit of the truth brings us further away from God once we try to figure out what we think the truth might be and possibly not what it exactly is. When you watch the film, you even notice how after Father Flynn gives his sermon about doubt, Aloysius doesn't seem to have much doubt at first. Another great thing about the film was how it doesn't exactly have a hero or villain. Every character is a regular human being that has admirable qualities, yet some less redeemable qualities as well.

                     I also really liked the acting in the film as well. Meryl Streep brings in her A-game as always as she plays the principal who rules her Catholic school with an iron fist and has such a commanding screen presence. Streep really makes the audience realize why some of the main characters are in such fear of her and sometimes does it by just giving a look. Amy Adams also excels as Sister James, who is the film's rather quiet moral center caught in the middle of the whole scandal and is in a little over her head. The late great Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant as Father Flynn, the beloved priest whose likability who at times makes you wonder whether Sister Aloysius is targeting him out of jealousy because he is so well-liked and she is so detested. Another actress who really shines is Ms. Viola Davis. She has only a limited amount of screen time, but she really makes the most of it as the mother of the allegedly abused child whose only focus is getting her son through school. So, all the actors bring in their A-game and it is no surprise they all got Oscar nominations for their respective performances.

                    What I Didn't Like About It:

                   Overall, Doubt is a brilliant ensemble piece that works as a questioning morality tale as well and as a film without a protagonist or antagonist. I would highly recommend this for the brilliant acting from the all-star cast and just because it is an astonishing work of art that manages to make you think. It might make you look into your own personal doubts because that is what the film is about.

Grade: A

Top 10: Winners/Nominees for Best Original Song

Hello, Bloggers, for today, I figured I'd do something a little more interesting and do a list of what are, in my opinion, the best winners and nominees for the Oscar for Best Original Song. This list is also a slight change of pace because it includes films that I haven't seen yet, but just songs I've listened to from those films. Here we go:

10. Accidentally In Love by Counting Crows, Shrek 2 (2004): Starting off my list is the opening song from Shrek 2 from one of my favorite bands, the Counting Crows. That song is Accidentally In Love which is a nice tune that just makes you cheerful and really captures the feeling of being in love.

9. Father And Daughter by Paul Simon, The Wild Thornberrys Movie (2002):  You can tell a song comes from the heart when it really tugs at your heartstrings and makes you misty-eyed every time you listen to it. The song Father and Daughter from The Wild Thornberrys Movie is a song written by Paul Simon for his daughter and from the soft guitar tune to the heartfelt lyrics, it will be bound to make you cry. Especially, if you are a father and have a daughter or even son of your own.

8. Blame Canada by Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999): Now onto a bit more lighter territory, the song "Blame Canada" from the satirical film South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut takes a jab at the country Canada when the parents of South Park blame them for their kids being more crude and using profanity. The song is short and sweet but may offer a quick laugh when you listen to it.

7. Jai Ho by A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire (2004): Now onto the first winner on this list, Jai Ho from the Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire. I'll admit, despite my disdain for the film itself, this was one of the few Oscars this movie did deserve. Even though I can't understand the lyrics, I just can't help but always listen to it. I don't know what it is.

6. Skyfall by Adele, Skyfall (2012): The next winner on this list, Skyfall is the first Bond theme to win the Oscar for Best Original Song, and with good reason. The song really captures the dark feel of the film and the way Adele sings it is amazing and puts together the lyrics is nothing short of brilliant. I'll admit, not a whole lot of the Bond themes I've listened to are all that memorable, but this one will hold up pretty well.

5. That Thing You Do! by The Wonders, That Thing You Do! (1996): I'll bet plenty of people will be surprised to know this was even nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar. But it was, and with good reason. It is a very fun and catchy tune that I remember asking my mom to play over and over in the car when I was younger. Plus, it was made famous by a fictional band, so that's something.

4. I've Seen It All by Bjork, Dancer in the Dark (2000): I may not have seen Dancer in the Dark in its entirety yet, but the song I've Seen It All still makes it on this list anyway. The song deals with Bjork's character singing about going blind and how there is nothing left for her to see. The genius of this song is it has a nice beat, but the song itself has almost an underlying tragedy.

3. Lose Yourself by Eminem, 8 Mile (2002): Even if you are not the biggest rap fan, you got to love wins like this just because it is a nice change of pace. But they chose this song with good reason, I would say, because it is a nice power anthem that deals with seizing what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and even tells the story of the film itself. This song could be used as a motivator for a big game or something along those lines.

2. Let It Go by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Frozen (2013): I have a feeling some will sigh at the sight of the song on this list because of how it is pretty overexposed, but I just can't resist putting it on here. One reason is, like my number 1 pick on this list, it is a perfect blend of song and singer. Idina Menzel really captures the emotion of this female empowerment song and the way she sings it just gives you chills. Plus, like most of the songs on this list, I can't help but always listen to and sing this wonderful song.

1. Over The Rainbow by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, The Wizard of Oz (1939): While Let It Go is a perfect blend of song and singer, I would say Over The Rainbow offers THE perfect blend of song and singer that has stood the test of time. Judy Garland sings it beautifully and in a very calming way, and the song really captures how we feel the need to go to a happier place without any troubles. Whether you are stressed or calm, this song will just bring you to a happy place when you listen to it.

So, those were my picks for the top 10 best winners and nominees for the Oscar for Best Original Song. If there is any other song you would like to add, then please feel free to write in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Indie Review: Bullets Over Broadway (1994)

                                               These 'Bullets' Definitely Don't Shoot Blanks
                      Woody Allen is a director that I have become quite fond of in recent years. I have not only liked his direction, but especially his writing and how he writes such amazing roles for women. Bullets Over Broadway is not only my favorite of his thus far but is also his best directorial effort in my opinion of his I've seen thus far.

                     Bullets Over Broadway follows a playwright named David Shayne (John Cusack) who tries to find financing for his play. To do so, he agrees to hire Olive (Jennifer Tilly), a girlfriend of a gangster. The problem is, however, Olive is a terrible actress. Plus, the play's leading man is a binge eater, Olive's hitman Cheech (Chazz Palminteri) turns out to be a writing genius and David begins to take credit for his work as Cheech helps him write the play, and he is caught up in an affair with the scheming alcoholic leading lady Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest).
                     What I Liked About It:
                    First off, I thought the actors were an absolute riot. John Cusack was just perfect for a film like this. In my opinion, he is the quintessential Woody Allen actor as he really fits Allen's rather neurotic sense of humor. Jennifer Tilly just had me in stitches as she is a good actress that plays a terrible actress. Dianne Wiest also stole the show as Helen Sinclair, who is like a stage version of Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard as she tries to rejuvenate her former glory, and Wiest more than deserved her Best Supporting Actress Oscar just like how Tilly more than deserved her nomination. Chazz Palminteri deserved his nomination for Best Supporting Actor as he brilliantly portrays a hitman who turns out to be a literary genius.

                    One thing that I thought was interesting about the film was how Allen touches upon the themes of egos clashing on the set as well as writers taking credit for other people's work. Those two themes i'm sure are still relevant today. Speaking of Allen, I liked the way he directed the film and not just wrote the fascinating and rather satirical story. There were a few scenes where he uses long takes and I thought that was very neat.

                   What I Didn't Like About It:

                  Overall, Bullets Over Broadway is a sharply funny and satirical film that is in my opinion, Woody Allen's best of his work that I've seen thus far. It's well-acted, has a brilliant story and amazing direction. Whether you are a fan of Woody Allen as an artist or not, I would say give this a watch. You might be in for as much of a surprise as I was.

Grade: A-

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

                                           The 'Fire' Set By This Sequel Is Flaming Hot

                          I remember after I saw the first Hunger Games, the first four words I said after it was over were "Bring on Catching Fire". Well, it was certainly worth the wait because The Hunger Games: Catching Fire not only is a great sequel, but really outdoes the original.

                      The Hunger Games: Catching Fire follows the main character Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) who just won the 74th Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and is forced to go on a Victory Tour and visit all 12 districts. Along the way, a rebellion is slowly rising and eventually, Katniss and Peeta find themselves back in the arena for the 75th Hunger Games, or the 3rd Quarter Quell, which pits them against previous victors.

                      What I Liked About It:
                     First off, I loved how the film is wholeheartedly true to the book. Not only that, but all the actors play the different characters as I imagined them when I was reading the book. Jennifer Lawrence IS Katniss Everdeen and I can't imagine anyone else playing her at this point, just like how Josh Hutcherson is Peeta and Woody Harrelson is Haymitch, and so on and so forth. Some of the new actors do a spectacular job as well. Philip Seymour Hoffman, as always, is brilliant as the rather enigmatic new gamekeeper Plutarch Heavensbee. Sam Claflin and Jena Malone play two of my favorite characters in the book series, Finnick Odair and Johanna Mason, and play them perfectly. Claflin embodies Finnick's cockiness, sarcasm, and his heart of gold very well. Jena Malone stole the show as she portrays Johanna's rather off-putting personality. One of my favorite scenes in the film is her interview with Caesar Flickerman, played by Stanley Tucci, where she curses at the audience.

                    Another thing I really liked was how the visual effects were significantly improved upon and really portray the futuristic world that is captured in the books. Not only that, but I thought director Francis Lawrence was brilliant at directing the film. I did think Gary Ross did a fine job directing the first Hunger Games, don't get me wrong, but my biggest pet peeve with his direction was when he started doing the whole "shaky cam" thing and thankfully, Lawrence didn't use that here. One thing I thought was interesting was how I felt tense during scenes where I felt tense while reading them in the book and my heartstrings tugged in scenes where I had my heartstrings tugged while reading them in the book. Plus, the film even captures the themes from the book, like rebellion and such.

                   What I Didn't Like About It:

                 Overall, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a brilliant adaptation of a spectacular book that also excels as a film in general. It really surpasses the original and even surpassed my expectations. I would highly recommend this whether you are a fan of the books or not. This one will not only satisfy its target audience, but might even bring in a new audience.

Grade: A+


Friday, May 9, 2014

Review: The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones

                             I'd Say These 'Instruments' Hardly Play An Adequate Musical Sound

                     We are living in an age where film adaptations of young adult book franchises reign supreme, for the most part with films like The Hunger Games, Twilight, and of course Harry Potter. However, there are those that seem destined to join their ranks like Beautiful Creatures, and the result sadly wasn't the desired outcome. But with The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, if the sequel weren't to come around, I wouldn't really miss it.

                    The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones follows a New York City girl named Clary Fray (Lily Collins) whose mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey) has been kidnapped. She then realizes that her mother was a Shadowhunter, or a hunter of demons, and that she is part Shadowhunter. Eventually, along with her best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan), she is thrust into the world of the supernatural and with the aid of a Shadowhunter named Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower).

                  What I Liked About It:
                 I will say that I did think the special effects were pretty cool and some of the creature effects as well. There is even one scene which reveals the idea of Johann Sebastian Bach being a Shadowhunter. I thought that was pretty cool. Other than that, there really isn't much I can add.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:
                First off, I will say that the whole idea of an ordinary teen who realizes he or she is not so ordinary or is thrust into a magical or supernatural world has been done before many times. Not only that, but The Mortal Instruments hardly focuses on any central themes, unlike films like The Hunger Games, Divergent, Beautiful Creatures, and Harry Potter. Sure, it may focus on a girl who slowly becomes a fierce heroine, but even that has been done before. So, the film doesn't really have its own identity. The Shadowhunters even refer to humans as "Mundanes", like how humans in Harry Potter are referred to as "Muggles".

                Another thing that bugged me was how there are certain plot points that go almost nowhere. I worry that I would spoil the film, so I'll only discuss one just to be safe. Throughout the film, Clary constantly sees this ancient symbol that hardly ever really explain. I would hope that they do in the sequel if it happens to get made.

                Overall, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a visual spectacle that is still rather forgettable. I certainly wouldn't recommend this to everyone, but if you want to see a film based off a YA book, I would say watch The Hunger Games, Divergent, Harry Potter, or even Beautiful Creatures, which isn't even getting a sequel. To me, that is quite sad because I thought that was more deserving of a sequel than this film. At least the first two films I just mentioned are becoming or have become franchises. Anyways, you're better off watching any of those four.

Grade: C-

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Indie Review: Animal Kingdom

                                              This 'Animal' Has More Bite Than Bark
                         We tend to have successful yet low quality commercial films that are like fierce and strong lions which really tower over smaller films that are like small leopards that you just really want to see pounce over the big and powerful lions. Since it is an indie film, Animal Kingdom really falls under the latter category rather than the former.
                     Animal Kingdom is about a 17-year-old orphan named Joshua "J" Cody (James Frecheville) who lives with his family of criminals after the death of his mother. J's family is comprised of his matriarchal grandmother Janine, aka "Smurf" (Jacki Weaver), and his three uncles: Andrew aka "Pope" (Ben Mendelsohn), Craig (Sullivan Stapleton), and Darren (Luke Ford). The Cody family then end up in a tangle with the Melbourne police, J finds himself in the middle and unsure whether or not his place is with his violent yet fiercely loyal family.

                    What I Liked About It:
                  One thing that I really liked was how the crime family is portrayed as ordinary-looking human beings. They don't always wear suits like the Corleones from The Godfather nor are they heavily tattooed. They look and act just like regular people who happen to be a family of criminals. Each member even has their own personality. "J" is the youngest member who is struggling to find his place, "Pope" is the psychotic and unstable uncle with a rather quiet demeanor, Craig is the uncle who is always in a panic, "Smurf" is the calm and collected matriarch who is almost too loving of her sons, and Darren is the uncle who is just plain quiet. All are interesting characters, but my personal favorite is honestly "Pope" because of how at times he is off the wall and somewhat chilling, yet during the more quiet moments in the film, he is very sympathetic and we see a more different side to him. I especially loved the way Ben Mendolsohn played his character and how all the other actors played their respective character as well. So, I applaud the director/screenwriter David Michod for creating more fleshed-out characters and making those who see the film give a crap as to whether they want them to live or not. Speaking of which, I liked the direction from David Michod. I liked how in some scenes, he has the characters wear different colored shirts to create a special color scheme and symbolism. Plus, the way he shoots this film really fits its gritty realism.

                 Another thing I liked about the film was how it is a crime film that, in my opinion, still has its own identity. Usually, crime films about the criminals themselves that are released are based on a mafia family or mobster thugs or even drug lords. But, here we have a crime film that focuses less on shoot-em-up scenes and more on the characters themselves, as well as the theme of how you can't pick or escape your family. It's different from The Godfather, which focuses more on loyalty to your family and family values.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:

               Overall, Animal Kingdom is a powerful crime drama that features extravagant performances from its cast and deserves to be ranked among the 'pack' of other crime dramas like Goodfellas, The Godfather, and The Departed. Whether you are a fan of crime dramas or not, I would say give this a watch because this is really one that  will be worth your 2 hours.

Grade: A

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

                                'Amazing Spider-Man 2' Slings A Web Of Complication

                    Normally, I don't really understand the difference between a plot and a story when it comes to film. But in a way, I have to thank The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for really making me understand that difference. It has helped me in a rather mixed and complicated way.

                   The Amazing Spider-Man 2 follows the main character Peter Parker, also known as Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), who finds his life complicated as he tries to juggle both life as Spider-Man and his life with his girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), living with his Aunt May (Sally Field), and school. Things begin to get even more complicated with the arrival of his old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) and a new villain named Electro (Jamie Foxx).

                   What I Liked About It:
                  First off, I absolutely LOVED the actors in this. Andrew Garfield really lives and breathes the character of Spider-Man and he and Emma Stone have amazing chemistry as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. I also really liked the scenes between Garfield and Sally Field. The scenes they have give the film a rather emotional touch, as well as the scenes where Peter Parker tries to dig deep into the secrets of his parents. But the actors that really steal the show are Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan. Foxx is just outstanding as Electro, who starts off as a scientist who is invisible to those around him and just yearns to be needed and loved. As his character gets more evil, he actually becomes much more chilling. Dane DeHaan really shines as Harry Osborn and I can only hope that after his performance in this that the future is bright, and I mean BRIGHT, for this young discovery. He is just that amazing and he might having you thinking about his performance after the film is over.

                  I also liked how the action scenes were shot. Some of them were shot from Spider-Man's point of view like in the last one, but some of them were shot in slow motion, which gave them a rather interesting touch. The action in this film was actually a little better than the action in the first film.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:
               As I said before, the film has helped me realize what the difference between a plot and a story is. It does this because the film doesn't have too much of a story. The film mainly focuses on different plot points rather than a fully-developed story, to be honest. You see, while Captain America: The Winter Soldier was an entertaining film, it also had a story that makes the viewers think and also turns the film into a conspiracy thriller. This film hardly focuses on any themes to make it more humanistic. I will say this, though, it still had a better plot than Thor: The Dark World, and this film was much, MUCH better than that one. Some fans even say that this film was just a teaser for the upcoming Sinister Six movie, and I can see why as there are quite a bit of characters that are involved with the Sinister Six. I did sort of see the introduction of those characters as a build-up to the Sinister Six, but if anyone thinks this film is overcrowded, just wait until Batman vs. Superman comes out because that film is already overloaded with characters.

                Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a highly entertaining film that in terms of its story, is "caught up in its own web". I would definitely recommend seeing this in theaters to get the full experience and because while it is problematic, it is a fun action flick. But, if you are going in expecting a superhero film that has a rather meaningful story, then you might be disappointed. It is definitely not one of the worst superhero movies I've seen, nor does it comes close, but it's not perfect.

Rating: 3/5

2013 Re-Oscars

Hello, Bloggers, after seeing all the nominees in the major categories from this year's Oscars, I figured I'd not only give my picks in each category, but just for fun, I'd create my own alternate list of nominees in each category. This is, what I like to call, the 2013 Re-Oscars. Please note, this is NOT meant to portray the Academy, nor those that won and actually got nominated in a negative light. This is just my opinion and is just for entertainment purposes. Here we go:
Note: *- Who actually won, (WINNER)- my personal winner

Best Supporting Actor:
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle 
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years A Slave (WINNER)
Jonah Hill, Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club*

For me, this was definitely a toss-up between Michael Fassbender and Bradley Cooper, or as I like to call them the Fass and the Coops, but I'm going to lean towards Michael Fassbender because Cooper has a bit more of a lead role, in my opinion. If there is anybody from American Hustle that gave a true supporting performance, it was Jeremy Renner, who didn't even get nominated. Leto was a fair winner though and it is pretty neat to see the lead singer of the band 30 Seconds to Mars become an Oscar-winning actor, even though I thought his role was a bit too "on the nose". In case you are wondering what that means, "on the nose" is used to describe a film or role that too obviously wants an Oscar. I usually don't like to vote for performances like those, so that's why I didn't pick Leto. Abdi and Hill are also solid nominees and make this a pretty strong category.


Alternate BSA Nominees:
Bradley Cooper, The Place Beyond the Pines
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years A Slave 
Ben Mendelsohn, The Place Beyond the Pines
David Oyelowo, The Butler
Jeremy Renner, American Hustle (WINNER)

Since American Hustle has such a strong ensemble, I wanted to nominate one actor whose nomination is on behalf of all the other actors in the film so they would still get recognized for their other film roles the same year, so I went with Jeremy Renner, who is my winner for his rather quiet performance as the corrupt mayor with good intentions. Instead of nominating him for Hustle, I chose to nominate Cooper for a film that I thought came out a little too early and was sadly overlooked this awards season: The Place Beyond the Pines, and nominate Ben Mendelsohn for the same film for his performance as a robber with a heart of gold. Michael Fassbender is technically the only nominee from the actual list that stays. The other new nominee is for David Oyelowo for his dynamic performance as the main character's son in The Butler. 

Best Supporting Actress:
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine 
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years A Slave* (WINNER)
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Much like Best Supporting Actor, this is another solid category. I still agree with the Academy giving the Oscar to Nyong'o for her luminous yet heartbreaking portrayal of Patsey in 12 Years A Slave, but all the other nominees gave great performances. Roberts blew me away even though she is in the wrong category, Squibb stole the show as the old wife with a lack of a filter, Hawkins also gives a great performance and whose nomination was a good way to make up for her Happy-Go-Lucky snub, and even though I thought she was better in Silver Linings Playbook, I still enjoyed Lawrence's darkly comedic performance in American Hustle.

Alternate BSA Nominees:
Amy Adams, Her
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Melissa Leo, Prisoners 
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years A Slave (WINNER)
Lea Seydoux, Blue is the Warmest Color

The only nominees from the actual list that stay are Hawkins and Nyong'o. I honestly would've kept Roberts if she wasn't such a victim of category fraud. Amy Adams goes on here for her role in Her as her performance in that film was imprinted in my head after the film was over. Melissa Leo also goes on here for her enigmatic, chilly turn in Prisoners, as well as Lea Seydoux for Blue is the Warmest Color, even if the film was rendered ineligible after it missed the deadline to be considered for Best Foreign Language Film.

Best Actress:
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine* (WINNER)
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Another choice that the Academy and I both agree on, Cate Blanchett is also my winner for Best Actress. However, Dench is a very close "in another year" second. Adams was amazing as always as a cunning yet vulnerable con artist in American Hustle. Bullock did an outstanding job at acting with herself and was much better than
in her Oscar-winning turn in The Blind Side. Streep, of course, was great, although the role itself was a bit too "on the nose" and she didn't really need the nomination, to be honest.

Alternate BA Nominees:
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine 
Judi Dench, Philomena
Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color (WINNER)
Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

Even though Cate Blanchett gave a tour-de-force performance last year, there just happened to be another actress that also gave a tour-de-force performance in another film that coincidentally has the word "Blue" in the film's title. That actress was Adele Exarchopoulos in the love story Blue is the Warmest Color. Jennifer Lawrence also goes on here, but for her slightly more nuanced role as Katniss in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I know this isn't the type of performance that does get nominated, but that's why I chose to nominate Lawrence for this and not American Hustle. Plus, it would be amazing to see the Academy shine a light on popular mainstream films, I think. Emma Thompson also goes on my alternate list for her performance as the real-life novelist who struggles to let go of her legendary character Mary Poppins who is based off her childhood in Saving Mr. Banks.

Best Actor:
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, Wolf of Wall Street (WINNER)
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club* 

Now, this was a tough category this year, even for those who weren't nominated. Matthew McConaughey especially gives an astonishing performance in the rather modest film Dallas Buyers Club. As great as he is though, my vote goes to Leonardo DiCaprio for Wolf of Wall Street not just because of the performance, but like most of the public, I think he deserves an Oscar badly. Ejiofor also gives a strong performance in 12 Years, where he just acts with his eyes. Even though Dern is great, his performance was borderline supporting to me. As outstanding as he is, Bale is in a similar situation as he is in an ensemble piece, so it is hard for me to tell whether he is a true lead or not.

Alternate BA Nominees:
Leonardo DiCaprio, Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave
Hugh Jackman, Prisoners (WINNER)
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Mads Mikkelsen, The Hunt

DiCaprio, Ejiofor, and McConaughey all land on my alternate nominations list. However, my pick for the win goes to another who didn't get nominated, Hugh Jackman, who gives a career-best performance in Prisoners. Love the guy as Wolverine and Jean Valjean, but he is just tops in this film. Mads Mikkelsen also lands a spot on this list for his performance in the Danish film The Hunt, not only because of the performance, but just to recognize performances and films from foreign soil and not just those from my country.

Best Director:
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity* (WINNER)
Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Martin Scorsese, Wolf of Wall Street 

Now, this was a tough one because my pick was definitely between Cuaron and McQueen. But I still went with Cuaron with McQueen coming in at a close, and I mean, CLOSE second. I still liked all the other nominees though. You can never go wrong with nominating Scorsese or David O. Russell who excelled at directing Hustle in a way that Scorsese would've in his prime. Alexander Payne also brilliantly directs Nebraska with his use of black-and-white to reflect the colorless rural America.

Alternate BD Nominees:
Derek Cianfrance, The Place Beyond The Pines
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity (WINNER)
Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave
Martin Scorsese, Wolf of Wall Street
Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners

There is no way I would leave out Cuaron or Steve McQueen. Not to discourage those that actually were nominated, but in my opinion, those two just gave the best directorial efforts of the year. Scorsese also stays on. With apologies to O. Russell and Payne, but the two new additions I have are Derek Cianfrance for The Place Beyond the Pines and Denis Villeneuve for Prisoners. Sure it makes the category hard to pronounce because most of my nominees have such colorful names, but it still makes the category as strong as the actual list.

Best Picture:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Philomena (runner-up)
12 Years A Slave* (WINNER)
Wolf of Wall Street

Quite a solid line-up, I would say. Honestly, this is a bit better than last year, even if there are some films I would leave off, which I will get too shortly. I'll start off with by saying 12 Years A Slave is not just the Academy's choice, but mine as well. It is not only a fantastic movie, but a BP winner that I think will hold up well historically. If I hadn't gone with that film, I probably would've leaned towards Her, Philomena, or Wolf of Wall Street. Gravity is a deserving nominee, but won the right technical awards on Oscar night, in my opinion. American Hustle is an entertaining movie and it is nice to see an entertaining film on the BP line-up because I fell those are rare. Dallas Buyers Club and Captain Phillips didn't really need to be on here despite their respective high points. Same goes to Nebraska. Which brings me to my alternate list:

Alternate BP Nominees:
American Hustle
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Place Beyond the Pines
Prisoners (runner-up)
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years A Slave (WINNER)
Wolf of Wall Street 

Now, I have a feeling some will scratch their heads at me nominating The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, but hear me out: It may be an entertaining film, but it also has great acting, a powerful story, and focuses on themes such as rebellion. Plus, as I said, it would be wonderful to see the Academy shine a light on popcorn fare more by not just placing them in the usual makeup and effects nods. Saving Mr. Banks also goes on here because of how it is an amazing movie about movies, like the last two winners for Best Picture: Argo and The Artist. The other two new inclusions are The Place Beyond The Pines and Prisoners. The ones from the actual list that stay are 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, American Hustle, Her, Wolf of Wall Street, and even Philomena. With this lineup, you have an eclectic mix of not just the kind of films that the Academy gravitates towards, but mainstream fare as well as darker smaller films that aren't typical Oscar films.

So, here are Matt's 2013 Oscar- Verse Winners:
Best Picture: 12 Years A Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Actor: Hugh Jackman, Prisoners
Best Actress: Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
Best Supporting Actor: Jeremy Renner, American Hustle
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years A Slave

So, that was my list of the 2013 Re-Oscars. If you agree or disagree with any of my picks or alternate nominees, please feel free to write in the comments section. Even write down who you think got snubbed this awards season. Thanks for reading!